African Jerusalem : the vision of Robert Grendon.
This thesis discovers the spiritual and aesthetic vision of poet-journalist Robert Grendon (c. 1867–1949), a man of Irish-Herero parentage. It situates him in the wider Swedenborgian discourse regarding African ‘regeneration’. While preserving the overall diachronic continuity of a literary biography, it treats his principal thematic preoccupations synchronically. The objective has been to show the imaginative ways in which he employs his rich and diverse religio-philosophical background to account for South Africa’s social problems, to pass judgement upon the principal players, and to point out an alternative path to a brighter future. Chapter 1 looks at Emanuel Swedenborg’s mystical revelations on the heightened spiritual proclivity of the ‘celestial’ African, and the consequences of New Jerusalem’s descent over the heart of Africa, which Swedenborg believed to be taking place, undetected by Europeans, around 1770. It also examines how those pronouncements were received in Europe, America, and—most particularly—in Africa. Chapter 2 examines the circumstances surrounding Grendon’s birth and childhood in what is today Namibia. It takes note of a family tradition that Joseph Grendon married a daughter of Maharero, a prominent Herero chief, and it looks at Robert Grendon’s views on ‘miscegenation’. Chapter 3 deals with Grendon’s schooling at Zonnebloem College, Cape Town. Chapter 4 describes his cultural, sporting, and political activities in Kimberley and Uitenhage in the 1890s, bringing to light his editorship of Coloured South African in 1899. It also considers his conception of ‘progress’. Chapter 5 looks at some early poems, including the domestic verse-drama, ‘Melia and Pietro’ (1897–98). It also contextualizes a single, surviving editorial from Coloured South African. Chapter 6 treats Grendon’s tour de force, the epic poem, Paul Kruger’s Dream (1902), as well as his personal involvement in the South African War, and his spiritualized account of the ‘Struggle for Supremacy’ in South Africa. Chapter 7 relates to Grendon’s fruitful Natal period, 1900–05: his headmastership of the Edendale Training Institute and of Ohlange College, and his editorship of Ilanga’s English columns during the foreign absence of the editor-in-chief, John L. Dube, from February 1904 to May 1905. Chapter 8 analyzes some of the shorter and medium-length poems written in Natal, 1901–04. Chapter 9 is a close examination of the poem, ‘Pro Aliis Damnati’, showing its Swedenborgian basis, and how it dramatizes Swedenborg’s concept of ‘scortatory’ love. Chapter 10 describes Grendon’s early years in Swaziland from 1905. Chapter 11 deals with his period as editor of Abantu-Batho in Johannesburg, 1915–16. Chapter 12 describes his last years in Swaziland, and his relationship with the Swazi royal family.